Apple released the latest update to Mac OS on Wednesday, version 10.8 Mountain Lion. The new desktop operating system delivers on many of the unfulfilled promises of its similarly big-cat-named predecessor, Lion, and is another step in the company's master plan to meld desktops with the touch-centric capabilities of iPhones and iPads. Is it worth the upgrade? Here, the top five reasons Mac owners should consider giving Mountain Lion a chance:
1. It's cheap
Mac OS updates used to be a big deal, says John Gruber at Daring Fireball. The product launches were "extravaganzas," and people would brave the lines at Apple Stores to fork over $129 to buy the software. All that changed in 2009 with the low-key release of Snow Leopard, priced at just $29. Now, the OS is cheaper than ever to download online: $19.99. The ingratiatingly affordable fee is a great idea, because it "encourages users to get on board with the latest and greatest." For the price of two movie-tickets, users get a "nicer, more polished version of Lion."
2. Notifications Center is smart
The most visible and best new feature is Notifications Center, says Matt Buchanan at Buzzfeed. Basically, it collects alerts from all your apps in one place: "New emails, messages, calendar alerts, fresh tracks in Rdio, whatever." The feature is already familiar to iPad and iPhone users, which "makes you wonder why Apple didn't do this before" for the desktop.
3. New gestures
"There are a lot of new multitouch gestures," adds Buzzfeed's Buchanan. Most notable: A three-finger tap to preview, a two-finger right-to-left swipe that brings up the Notifications Center, and a distinct gesture in Safari to open a new tab.
4. It will integrate with your social networks
On the iPhone, social networks are playing an increasingly larger role; the same is happening on the Mac, too. Twitter is baked into Mountain Lion, meaning you'll be able to tweet a webpage link without changing tabs or windows. A similar Facebook integration is set to roll out in just a few months. "My guess was that it may be part of a Facebook/Apple agreement," says MG Siegler at Parislemon. "Maybe Apple wasn't allowed to push any integration until the fall," when iOS 6 — which also adds in Facebook — for the iPhone and iPad officially rolls out.
5. You'll finally learn what iCloud is
Apple is "doubling down on iCloud in Mountain Lion," says John Siracusa at Ars Technica. Instead of storing your files locally, you'll be able to save everything to a cloud server (if you so choose). This allows you to access anything from anywhere, whether you're using your iPad, iPhone, or Mac. "iCloud hooks into Contacts, Calendar, Notes, Documents and Data, Reminders, and app preferences and syncs them between your Mac and any other iOS device you have," says Buzzfeed's Buchanan. "It works pretty well, once you have it set up."